Saving The Strays

Published 11:54 am Thursday, June 25, 2015

CUMBERLAND — A saving grace has touched more than 560 dogs and cats the past year-and-a-half in Cumberland County, keeping tails wagging and their hearts purring with life and spirit.

The animal euthanasia rate dropped to 19 percent last year from 52 percent in 2013 at the Cumberland County Animal Control and Pound Facility as a result of not only the kindness of the volunteers but the hard work and success of the Friends of Cumberland County Animal Control (FCCAC), led by Leigh McCrea.

Saving The Strays

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Prior to organizing FCCAC, McCrea was an adoption counselor at the Richmond Animal League (RAL).

“Being a single dog mom meant I needed to be home with my dogs more,” McCrea said. “Carolyn Turner, [an] RAL volunteer, came out to Cumberland regularly to pull dogs for RAL, and told me Cumberland Animal Control needed to be on Facebook.  RAL had done a great job of pulling animals for the shelter, but they couldn’t save all of them.”

And that’s where McCrea’s organizational and life-saving skills came into Cumberland’s picture.

Since she’s been actively working at the pound, hundreds of dogs and cats have been saved. In 2013, out of the 536 animals taken in at the facility, 277, or more than half, were euthanized. The remaining 48 percent were reclaimed, adopted or transferred to another Virginia Releasing Agency.

FCCAC has turned the tide since then. In 2014, out of the 538 animals taken in, 357 were saved, dropping the euthanasia rate by 33 percent in one year.

To see the animals find homes “is humbling and amazing and heart moving…,” she said.

The mission of the group is to reduce the euthanasia of adoptable dogs and cats through preventive veterinary care, networking with rescue groups and adoption events, informing the public of animals for adoption and increasing community awareness of responsible pet ownership.

According to the group’s website, McCrea, who serves as Cumberland County’s juvenile probation officer, decided something had to change after seeing the 52 percent euthanasia rate, so she began the FCCAC Facebook page and began her work in January 2014.

She said that seeing the adopted animals on social media comforted with blankets and pillows is wonderful.

The county’s administration has been very supportive of the group, she said. “The county lets us do this work. We’ve had Dobbie … since February 20 with no interest in adoption, but we’re able to keep him and hopefully find him a home,” she said of one of the dogs.

McCrea says the biggest thing Cumberland residents can do to help control the pet population is purchase and put rabies and county tags and licenses on their pets. “We can get their dogs back to them where they won’t be at risk of euthanasia,” she said.

Spay and neuter too, she said. “That’s my soapbox,” she said. Implanting microchips in pets too, she said, is important and helpful.

She said that social media users could help by sharing the group’s photos and posts.

Other volunteers include Tiffany Lawhorne, Andy and Joy Bollinger, Michele Graziano, Peggy Bouchard and Lisa Brock.

For more information on the group or to donate and volunteer, call 804-492-3076, email or search Friends of Cumberland County Animal Control on Facebook.